I’m a very very bad person. Why? Because I procrastinate. I put things off, leave them to the last minute, or simply never finish them. To beat these lazy habits, I’m reluctantly reading Neil Fiore’s The Now Habit. I still haven’t finished it after three months, but I have hope. (I have 40 pages left.)
According to Neil Fiore and 30 years of research, procrastination isn’t the result of laziness. Rather, procrastination is a symptom, a way of coping with deep psychological self-criticism and fear. It’s because we’re taught to believe that working is good and playing is bad. To reverse this unhealthy model, Neil proposes a tool: the Unschedule.
The Unschedule looks like a normal schedule, but with a twist. Instead of scheduling work you have to do, you fill in everything you want to do.
Here’s what my Unschedule looks like next week:
After visualizing my day, I was amazed to see I don’t have time to work for more than two hours without a good break. Already, work doesn’t seem so bad.
Here’s a summary, based on Neil’s instructions, on how to make and use your own Unschedule:
Schedule only non-work activities
- Previously committed time such as meals, sleep, meetings
- Free time, recreation, leisure reading
- Socializing, lunches, and dinners with friends
- Health activities like going to the gym
- Routine events such as commuting, classes, appointments
Do not schedule work on projects. The goal of the Unschedule is guarantee your guilt-free play and legitimize your personal time.
Fill in your Unschedule with work on projects only after you’ve completed at least one-half hour of uninterrupted work
Think of the Unschedule as a time clock that you punch in as you start work and punch out when you take credit for your progress
Take credit only for periods of work that represent at least thirty minutes of uninterrupted work.
Do not record the time on your Unschedule if you stop before thirty minutes are up. Unschedule represents quality work, not trips to get potato chips or to make calls.
Reward yourself with a fun activity after each period of work
You deserve it.
Track of the number of quality hours worked each day and each week.
Emphasize what you did accomplish and adjust your Unschedule for days you need to start earlier on high-priority projects.
Schedule at least one full day for fun and small chores.
Avoid resentment and burnout by giving yourself a mini-vacation each week.
Before doing something fun, do thirty minutes of work on your projects
Again, guilt-free play is a reward and incentive for quality work.
Focus on starting and the next action
Replace all thoughts about finishing with thoughts about when, where, and on what you can start.
Do not aim to finish a book, write letters, complete your income tax, or to work continuously for even four hours. Aim for thirty minutes of quality, focused work.
Forget about finishing. If you must worry, worry about starting. In order to finish, all you have to do is just keep starting!
Never end “down”
Never take a break when you’re stuck or ready to give up. Always stay with a tough spot for another five or ten minutes, trying to come up with a partial solution that you can pursue later.
For more ways to overcome procrastination, I definitely recommend checking out The Now Habit. Be warned, the cover is horrendous. It looks like any typical self-help paperback you’d find in a mega-bookstore. You know, the kind with wretched typography, garish colors, and flimsy paper. You’ll be embarrassed to buy it in-person and even more ashamed to read it on the bus. But despite its homely cover, at least I’ve learned I’m not such a bad person after all.
Have you tried Unscheduling your life? Is it working? Let everyone know in the comments!
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